Customers are spending more of their money on experiences, such as travel and hotels, and less on possessions. But are travel and hospitality companies taking full advantage?
There's a sign you'll sometimes see in gift shops: 'The best things in life aren't things'. And it seems that more of today's consumers feel that way.
People are spending more on their experiences and less on cars, sofas, refrigerators and other durable possessions, according to Deloitte's 2018 travel and hospitality industry outlook. Spending on recreation, travel, and eating out is going up.
If anything, this trend looks set to accelerate. A survey by Eventbrite found that millennial's are increasingly spending time and money on experiences: from canoe trips to cultural events. Researchers found that this group love 'creating, sharing and capturing memories' through experiences. 
This is great news for travel and hospitality companies. But are they missing something?
Where does experience start?
Travel and hospitality brands know that services should run on time, facilities must be clean, and serving staff should always be polite and attentive.
But is the same attention and care reflected when someone interacts with the contact center before, during and after their trip or visit? Are communications with agents first-class or do consumers feel as if they've been stuck in the cargo hold?
Anecdotes from review websites are easy to find. Here's a smattering:
- 'At best the attitude of the call center staff ... can be described as indifferent - in reality I found them to be arrogant, disinterested, condescending and unable to explain why this (seating problem) occurred.'
- 'Took me four calls to book this hotel, the call center staff would not confirm we could have interconnecting rooms despite knowing we had my five-year-old with us.'
- 'Couldn't book a twin (room) on their own website ... and considerable debate amongst the call center as to whether or not they existed which they clearly do!'
- 'I made an email complaint (to the holiday company) ... still nothing after 28 days ... (They) send customers round in circles. They should (add a line to their motto that says) 'with a Customer Service to infuriate and disappoint at every step of the way''
And, erm ... these were some of the more polite complaints.
Getting it right
When you find poor reviews about contact centers, it's often because companies don't intervene quickly or provide accurate, timely information. However, these things are relatively easy to fix.
Here are two ways to transform the customer experience ...
Firstly, Omnichannel solutions can provide seamless engagement on whichever contact channel the customer prefers at any given moment. This is important because customers on the move may switch between laptops and phones constantly. Agents can intervene swiftly to solve problems using Web Chat, Call-Back, email management and social media monitoring with tools that are easy to deploy and manage.
Secondly, there are cost-effective ways for travel and hospitality brands to satisfy consumers' hunger for accurate, real-time information. Advanced chatbots are a great way to make yourself available
24x7, while a knowledge base is another way you can let people search for simple answers in moments. Helpful notifications about bookings, requests and status, can also be sent automatically, lifting the burden off your agents and enhancing the customer experience.
All of this can be introduced quickly - and without ripping and replacing your contact center infrastructure.
These issues are explored in a new report from Eckoh. Download your free copy of The Travel & Hospitality Report 2018/19 which looks at the top five challenges for this sector. It's possible for companies to transform the customer experience without having to find a fortune in new investment.
 Deloitte: 2018 travel and hospitality industry outlook
 Millennials: Fueling the experience economy - Eventbrite